Many credit unions were founded by groups of workers in areas where traditional banking services were either unavailable or beyond their means. Such is the case with Raritan Bay Federal Credit Union, which was founded in 1941 to serve workers of National Lead.
Founding members of Titanox FCU (what is now known as Raritan Bay FCU). From left to right: Steve Stankovitz, Mitch La’Voie, John F. Kroeger, John Andrejewski, and Rocco Fazari.
Not only does Raritan Bay FCU have deep roots, but the original founders exhibited an amazing devotion to their fellow members that is a hallmark of the cooperative credit union business model. During its 75th anniversary celebration last year, Raritan Bay FCU honored one of its original members, John Andrejewski, in recognition of his 75 years as a member and 41 years of service as an official to the credit union.
Andrejewski, now 97 years old, recently took the time to reflect on the early days of the credit union, its humble beginnings in a single room at the lead plant, and how its blue-collar start has defined its mission to this day.
It all began in 1941 when five National Lead workers on the management team began the credit union with the approval of the plant manager, who gave them a room to start the operations right in the plant. As new employees joined the ranks at the plant, they became members of the credit union. Andrejewski joined as soon as he became a maintenance worker for National Lead in 1941. His member number was, and still is to this day, one of the very first account numbers of what has now become almost 11,000 members. And he has been involved in the credit union’s growth every step of the way.
“The credit union was for the people. For the working man. For the blue-collar worker,” he explains while reminiscing about the credit union’s humble beginnings at the plant. The credit union, named Titanox Federal Credit Union at the time, was there for the workers who needed loans. The plant workers very seldom defaulted on them, says Andrejewski, because they had a steady stream of income from the plant, but also because they had a loyalty to their fellow workers, including Andrejewski, who served on multiple committees for the credit union over the years.
The credit union moved to several locations after it left the National Lead building in the late 1950s, including a space it rented from the South Amboy First Aid Squad, until it finally found its home in 1993 at 491 Raritan Street on the border of Sayreville and South Amboy, where it still remains today. Andrejewski oversaw the plans for the building, which serves as the credit union’s headquarters, and is playfully teased to this day for some of the out-turned bricks on the corner of the building he chose to make it look “a little bit different.”
As membership expanded, Raritan Bay FCU went through a few name changes. After including the communities surrounding the plant—Sayreville and South Amboy—in 1982, the credit union’s name was changed to Titanox-Community Federal Credit Union, then to Raritan Bay FCU on April 21, 1988. In 1997, it opened a second location on Main Street in South River.
Andrejewski (left) celebrating the credit union’s 75th anniversary with Board Chair Elsie Mroczkowski (center) and President/CEO Ron Behrens (right).
In 1999, Raritan Bay FCU became the first credit union in New Jersey to open a Student-Run Credit Union Branch, which was located in South Amboy Middle/High School. Students were given the opportunity to volunteer at the high school branch where they learned the basic principles and practices of the financial services industry and the operation of a small business. High School seniors are also offered the opportunity to apply for a scholarship through the credit union to help off-set the cost of college.
Current President/CEO, Ronald Behrens, noted that Raritan Bay FCU stays involved in its community by supporting many events throughout the year and paying homage to its roots in the area surrounding the plant, including Sayreville Day, South River's National Night Out, South Amboy's Raritan Bay Festival of the Arts, Sayreville Police Annual Torch Run to benefit local Special Olympics, and The Breast Cancer Walk in Edison. They even devote revenue from ATM usage to Toys-for-Tots and other local charities, collect non-perishable foods for over 80 local food pantries, soup kitchens and 25 other community social service agencies, and provide scholarship awards to high school seniors for college education.
The credit union’s dedication to its community, especially its younger generations, earned it recognition over the years; the credit union was awarded the Desjardins Youth Financial Education Award for New Jersey in 2013 and 2014.
The credit union now serves almost 11,000 members in all of Middlesex County and along the Raritan Bay. More information at www.rbfcu.coop.